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Hempstead, Solon, West Delaware Headed to State Volleyball Tournament

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DYERSVILLE Brett Mather sounded like a firm, patient parent that walked into a cluttered room.

"Clean it up," he said.

His team obeyed.

Third-ranked West Delaware spotted No. 5 Cedar Rapids Xavier a one-set advantage, then came back to prevail, 21-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-23, in a Class 4A regional-final volleyball match Tuesday night at Beckman High School.

"We made a lot of errors that first game, but we had the right mindset," said Hawks libero Emily Thole. "We didn't get down on ourselves, because we knew we could come back. We just had to focus on what we do well."

Specifically, to prolong points, establish tempo and to frustrate.
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The Hawks (37-5) were rewarded with their eighth state-tournament appearance, all since 2003. They'll face No. 7 Davenport Assumption in a first-round match at 2 p.m. next Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

Assumption (31-6) swept No. 10 Marion on Tuesday.

"I think it's a wide-open tournament," Mather said. "Six or seven teams probably have to think they've got a shot. We need to execute, play with disclipine and play with poise."

Like they did Tuesday, after they fell behind.

"I feel like maybe they underestimated us at the start of the match," said Xavier setter Britni Schotes. "After we won the first game, they came at us hard. I don't think we expected them to come at us as strong as they did."

Mather said, "Xavier outplayed us in every aspect of Game 1. We had a lot of hitting errors. We just had to clean up what we do, because we were pretty sloppy."

The Hawks got down 11-2 at the start before making a game in the opener. Then in the next two games, they took control by the midpoint.

Bridget Hoffmann smacked eight of her match-high 15 kills in the second set.

"I just tried to see where the openings were on the court," she said. "And I tried to tip it where they weren't."

In Game 3, Xavier (28-11) cut a seven-point deficit to 18-17 before West Delaware pulled away.

That set the stage for the fourth set, in which neither team led by more than three points.

Xavier scored four straight points for a 22-21 edge before the Hawks countered. Paige Soppe's kill put the Hawks in front, 23-22, then added another to give them match point at 24-23.

Marly Boies' block sent the Hawks back to state.

Sure, West Delaware's pride and joy is their defensive might. But the Hawks can swing, too. They posted a 56-43 advantage in kills. Soppe added 13, Addison Brooks and Haley Morrison nine apiece, and Carlee Ketchum collected 45 assists.

Madsy Richards paced Xavier with 14 kills, Kayla VandenBosch 12. Kayla Torson was held to eight.

In Krista Johnson's first season as coach, the Saints collected their second straight MVC Valley Division championship.

"It was really fun," Johnson said. "They were so coachable. They worked hard every night and responded very well. They were fighters."

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